Saturday 1st October 2016                 Change text size:

University of California unsure over fossil fuel divestment



James Ennis 2

The University of California (UC) has agreed to take environmental issues into account over investment decisions but has not considered the option of total divestment from fossil fuel companies, arguing this would not significantly affect climate change.

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The decision was made after a UC task force on sustainable investing discussed the request by student activists to free the school’s endowment from fossil fuel firms, blamed for increasing the dangerous effects of climate change.

However, the panel has decided to keep hold of the investment – as Yale, Brown and Harvard universities did – as this is not thought to “meaningfully impact climate change”, but could instead harm the university’s finances.

Though the divestment option is not completely shelved but will be reviewed by the Regents Committee on Investments, UC has opted for a greater focus on social and environmental issues when investing.

This means that the university will consider environmental responsibility when investing and won’t exclude divestment entirely. It also commits to dedicating $1 billion (£620 million) investment over the next five years to renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture.

UC’s chief investment officer, Jagdeep S. Bachher told LA Times, “Could we potentially see ourselves over time changing the nature of the portfolio to address carbon risk? The short answer is yes”, adding that the university will develop a strategy on responsible investment soon.

The decision to free investments from fossil fuels has been taken by a large number of schools, councils and religious institutions across the world. In the US, Stanford University, Pitzer College are among those making such move, followed by the University of Glasgow and London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Photo: James Ennis 2

Further reading:

Divestment: University of London’s school freezes fossil fuels investment

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns can help ‘stigmatise’ industry

Divestment: Stanford to shift investments in coal towards ‘sustainable’ solutions

US academics: fossil fuel divestment reduces long-term financial risks

University of Glasgow advisers suggest total divestment from fossil fuels within 10 years


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